Ops (B)

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Ops (B) was an Allied military deception planning department, based in the United Kingdom, during the Second World War. It was set up under Colonel Jervis-Read in April 1943 as a department of COSSAC (the recently formed operational planning department with a focus on western Europe). That year, Allied high command had decided that the main Allied thrust would be in southern Europe, and Ops (B) was tasked with tying down German forces on the west coast in general, and drawing out the Luftwaffe in particular.

The department's first operation was a three-pronged plan called Operation Cockade, an elaborate ploy to threaten invasions in France and Norway. Cockade was not much of a success. The main portion of the operation, a deceptive thrust against the Boulogne region named Operation Starkey, intended to draw out the German air arm, failed to elicit a response. The plan was undermined by the fact that any Allied push towards France that year was obviously unlikely.

In January 1944, COSSAC was absorbed into SHAEF and Ops (B) survived the transition, expanding in the process. Colonel Wild took over from Jervis-Read (who became his deputy) and reorganised the department into two sections: Operations and Intelligence. The refreshed department was given control over double agents and other avenues of disinformation. Ops (B) was tasked with operational planning for the main portion of Operation Bodyguard, a deception plan to cover the 1944 Normandy landings, named Operation Fortitude. In early 1944 David Strangeways joined the 21st Army (the invasion force); Strangeways clashed with Wild, and ended up rewriting major portions of Fortitude. Ops (B) was eventually relegated to the role of managing the information flowing out through disinformation channels.

Background[edit]

General Frederick E. Morgan, COSSAC, established Ops (B) in April 1943 following pressure from John Bevan

In March 1943, General Frederick E. Morgan was appointed Chief of Staff to the Supreme Allied Commander (Designate) (COSSAC), and tasked with operational planning in Northwest Europe.[1] Morgan's operational orders from Allied high command, received in April, referred to "an elaborate camouflage and deception" with the dual aim of keeping German forces in the west, and drawing the Luftwaffe into an air battle. The cross-channel invasion had already been postponed until 1944, and the main Allied push that year was toward southern Europe. Morgan's overall task was to help keep the enemy away from the fighting.[2][3]

In principle, overall deception strategy across all theatres of war fell to the London Controlling Section, a Whitehall department established in 1941 and by then run by Colonel John Bevan. Bevan convinced Morgan to establish a specialist deception section on his staff to conduct operational planning for the Western Front. However, Morgan's hierarchy was not set up to accommodate such a department. Instead, Ops (B) was set up within the "G-3" operations division in April 1943, and Colonel John Jervis-Read was appointed as its head.[2][a] The concept was inspired by early successes in deception by Dudley Clarke and his 'A' Force in the Mediterranean theatre. However, Morgan disliked Clarke's department (referring to it as a "private army")[4] and Jervis-Read was given only limited resources.[4]

Cockade[edit]

Main article: Operation Cockade

The department's first assignment was Operation Cockade, a deception intended to draw German attention from the Balkans by threatening invasions in France and Norway. Cockade was not a success. The operation was originally thought up by the London Controlling Section and, under the new departmental structure, Ops (B) was tasked with the operational planning.[4]

Cockade consisted of three operations throughout 1943, variously threatening invasions in Norway, Boulogne and Brest. The centrepiece was Operation Starkey, which included a major bombing campaign prior to a cross-channel amphibious "invasion". The feint failed to elicit any response from the enemy, who had already made up their mind that Allied action that year would be focused on the Mediterranean.[4]

Bodyguard[edit]

Main article: Operation Bodyguard
An Operation Bodyguard memo with notes from Colonel Jervis-Read

Following on from Cockade, Ops (B) was set to drafting the deception plans for Operation Overlord. In reality the task fell to the London Controlling Section, on account of lacking resources. However, in December 1943 Eisenhower was appointed Supreme Commander and the department was expanded. Noel Wild, Clarke's deputy at 'A' Force, was drafted in to replace Jervis-Head (who became Wild's deputy). Wild completely re-organised the department, dividing it into two branches: Operations and Intelligence. Jervis-Head became head of the Operations division whilst Lieutenant-Colonel Roger Fleetwood-Hesketh took charge of the Intelligence division.[5][6]

With these new resources Ops (B) was able to take over local planning for the Overlord deception plan, Operation Bodyguard. Wild began laying out strategy for Operation Fortitude, the portion of Bodyguard that would convince the Germans of a threat to both Norway and the Pas de Calais.[6]

In early 1943 Field Marshal Montgomery (in charge of the land forces to be used during the invasion) brought in David Strangeways, another 'A' Force alumni. Strangeways was placed in command of R Force and tasked with implementing the Fortitude deception. Strangeways almost immediately objected to Ops (B)'s outline, and in fact rewrote Fortitude South to his liking. Eventually Ops (B) were stripped of any control of the operational planning and left in charge of disinformation via special means (double agents).[5][7]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ COSSAC was set up in the style of American forces (hence the G-3 department), which had no concept of deception at the top level of operations[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bond (2004)
  2. ^ a b c Holt (2004), pg. 477
  3. ^ Hesketh (1999), pg. xv
  4. ^ a b c d Crowdy (2011), pg. 220
  5. ^ a b Holt (2004), pg. 528–530
  6. ^ a b Crowdy (2011), pg. 230
  7. ^ Holt (2004), pg. 536

Bibliography[edit]